Ready for some sun and surf? Jetsetter's latest Mystery takes you to Waikiki, where we've paired a resort fit for a Hawaiian queen with our insider's guide to the iconic Oahu strip.
Hawaii's Kamehameha clan cherished Waikiki as their private tropical playground, and you can still roll like royalty on this two-mile strip of sand lined with resort hotels, scenic beaches, tropical parks and gourmet grinds. Click here to book Jetsetter's Mystery Waikiki resort and read on for your (suggested) strategy for where to surf, sun and scarf in this island paradise.
The grande dame resorts that rose on Waikiki in the early 20th century witnessed the birth of modern surfing, led by watermen like the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, whose wave riding awed and inspired distinguished guests from around the globe.
Before you hit the waves these original Beach Boys pioneered, pay homage to Duke at his bronze statue welcoming all to Waikiki's Kuhio Beach Park with open arms. Then turn around and shake a shaka (that surf-centric hand gesture wherein the thumb and pinkie are extended and the tree middle fingers curled in) at the suckers surveying the scene from their cubicles on the famous webcam that broadcasts worldwide.
With gentle waves and a shallow sandy bottom, the Waikiki surf within steps of your beachfront Mystery digs is perfect for dialing in your turns. But where to paddle out? Queens Surf Beach Park, south of the Kapahulu Groin (a.k.a. The Wall, a walkway extending into the water), has wide right and left breaks that are ideal for groms riding rented longboards.
If you master this wave, show off your hang ten at Canoes, one of the most popular waves on the planet. It breaks right in front of the Duke's statue and all the gawkers sipping fruity drinks at the famous Barefoot Bar, so bring your best moves. If you want to take your surfing to the next level, book a lesson with the Beach Boys of Waikiki Water Services, helping tourists walk on water since 1955.
Experienced surfers striking out on their own will get a lot more respect from the locals carving Threes, a steep break immortalized in The Endless Summer, if they paddle out on a hand-shaped Donald Takayama board. You can pick one up at Koa Board Sports, on Koa Avenue, one block inland from Duke's statue.
To soak in some rays far from the madding crowd, trek to Diamond Head Beach Park, a narrow cliff-backed beach at the foot of the eponymous volcanic carter on the southeastern edge of Waikiki. A rocky shelf lines the shore, so this isn't the best swimming beach, but the views are spectacular and the sunsets over the Pacific, with the lighthouse in the foreground, are especially memorable. From here you can also hike to the top of Diamond Head State Monument for lofty views of Waikiki and the water -- in the winter, this is a good lookout for migrating humpback whales off the coast.
Learn how shallow water coral generates nutrients via photosynthetic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae, at the Waikiki Aquarium's "Coral Are Alive" exhibit and then head to Sans Souci Beach, a wide ribbon of sand lapped by shallow waters protected by a low reef. This is the spot for a carefree dip or a snorkel amid the coral in tranquil waters. It's also a popular family flop.
It's named for Queen Liliuokalani, who had a beach home here back in the day, but today Queens Surf Beach Park is Waikiki's premiere gay beach. It's backed by Queen Kapiolani Park, Hawaii's oldest public park, perfect for picnicking and kite flying. The park is also home to Honolulu Zoo, an Obama family favorite (the president brought daughters Malia and Sasha here) where you can see Komodo dragons, the largest living lizards left on the planet.
After working up an appetite riding waves all morning choose from two Oahu lunch staples: plate lunch, two scoops of rice and macaroni salad topped with everything from Korean barbecue, kalua pork, chicken katsu or mahi-mahi; or loco moco, a beef patty cradled by white rice with a fried egg slapped on top, all bound together by a ladle (or two) of gravy. Chow down, but be sure to save some stomach for a mid-afternoon shave ice.
Hawaii's blue-collar spin on the bento box, plate lunch has filled up hungry plantation workers, military men, surfers and even President Obama through the years. The commander-in-chief has copped to craving the plate lunch at Rainbow Drive-in, a Waikiki institution on Kanaina Avenue since 1961. We're not sure which entrée he went with, but we love the roast pork with gravy served Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
Most plate lunch joints also pump out local fave loco moco, and Rainbow Drive-in's version is delish, but Eggs 'n Things puts a sumptuous spin on the classic with their Hawaiian Moco: Portuguese sausage, sautéed onions and mushrooms topping off a regular loco moco. The restaurant's Maui Moco adds fresh pineapples to the pile.
Don't call it a snow cone. With its soft, fluffy flakes doused in tropical syrups, shave ice is an island delicacy and a cherished après surf scarf. Waikiki is full of shave ice shops, but it's worth the trip to Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice (525 Kapahulu Avenue) for the Azuki Bowl -- shave ice topped with condensed milk, mochi and red azuki beans.